As a horse lover, it’s important to have a basic intuitive understanding of the nature of horses – what they look for in a leader, for example, and how they react to potentially dangerous situations. We create better relationships with our horses if we try to understand their intentions.
1. Become a true leader through intuitive understanding
Most horses are looking for a leader who will take care of them. A horse is not willing to hand his life over to “just anyone”. The individual who assumes this responsibility needs to be someone who emits an intuitive understanding and ability to take care of the herd. A leader respects the likes and dislikes of the herd while guiding them in areas they have trouble coping with.
The horse is so concerned about his survival that he will test a person who claims she is “boss”. To accept you as leader, the horse needs to trust you, your judgment, and your respect for him. When he tests you, it is for survival purposes. This is where you can earn a lot of respect. Will you lose your temper or give up on him? If you do not follow through consistently, he’ll know he needs to be the leader. His life depends on it!
2. Be truthful to earn respect
Truth is a quality that horses respect. How many times have you heard “leave your problems at the gate”? Other people may not know when you do this, but your horse, who is very sensitive, senses you are hiding something. He will not know what to expect and may not trust you. Show him what you are feeling inside; he might even want to help you work through your problems.
3. Use pressure fairly and effectively
Horses try to escape pressure and learn from the release of pressure. This is part of their survival skills and can be used in training. In order to communicate, pressure is put on the horse, whether it’s guidance from a halter or a dressage whip. When the horse moves in the right direction, the pressure is taken off. The quicker the release, the faster the horse will learn that it is a good thing to do.
4. Offer your heart
Offer the horse your heart and tell him of your spirit, your dreams and what you want from the relationship. In turn, he will tell you what he seeks if you’re listening quietly. Horses are meant to be our equals, companion spirits journeying in a world we have to share. We need to take the time to truly convince our horses that we too can “play”, with trust, respect, and fun. On this two-way street, we can form the most amazing relationships ever dreamed possible.
5. Avoid disassociation
Have you have ever seen a horse with a “glazed over” or completely panic-stricken look? This often arises from disassociation. The horse is a simple animal, built, bred and brought up to survive. If she feels threatened, she will do everything possible to leave the situation, either physically or by dissociating emotionally. Humans do the same when they feel so deeply threatened that they don’t want to be present in their bodies because the trauma cannot be handled. The horse is a very sensitive animal and should never be pressured to the point where she needs to disassociate. It’s your responsibility to give her the safety, guidance and respect she needs. She will then stay in the present because she trusts you to keep her safe.
Stevi Weissbach uses and teaches natural horsemanship as well as a more spiritual and energy based approach to connect with animals. She has found that horses respond best when their behaviors are seen as a potential for growth, respect and trust. For more information, visit